Taleb Al Kerbi
UAE’s 2018 Asian Games silver medallist Taleb Al Kerbi (right) in action against Brazilian Thiago Marques in the final match. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: UAE’s 2018 Asian Games silver medallist Taleb Al Kerbi bid goodbye to the sport by adding another silver at Masters Championship of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship at the Mubadala Arena on Tuesday.

Al Kerbi’s hopes of clinching gold was once again thwarted by Brazilian Thiago Marques in the final of the Masters-1 Black belt 69kg with a 2-1 advantage point after being locked at 2-2 on points.

This was the fourth year in a row that Al Kerbi was losing to the same opponent and understandably dejection was writ large on the Emirati’s face, who had last won gold in the purple belt at 2013 World Pro.

“I wanted to go out on a high, but it wasn’t destined for me,” said the 36-year-old shaking his head in dismay.

“It was a very close fight, much closer than all our three previous meetings. I was even leading, but just couldn’t convert it to my advantage towards the end,” said Al Kerbi, whose laurels also include gold at the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.

Kerbi, who also has gold under his belt at the 2014 and 2016 Asian Beach Games, was quick to add that making it to the finals for the fourth year in a row was special.

“I must say reaching the final was still a pretty good achievement. I’m going out with so many wonderful memories,” said Al Kerbi, who is looking forward to serve the sport as a coach.

“I will be around for sure. This sport has given me everything and coaching is very much on my mind, but for now I’m looking forward to a good break.”

The much awaited World Pro Championship gets underway with preliminary rounds on Tuesday. The men’s world title will be decided here in Abu Dhabi and the battle for the top honours is currently between Brazilian compatriots Gabriel De Sousa, Diego Ramalho and Ricardo Evangelista as well as Poland’s Ivan Wardzinski. With 400 points up for grabs, the title contest is expected to be a pulsating one.

De Sousa leads with 1,220 points followed by Ramalho and Evangelista on 1,200 points and 1,040 points, respectively. Wardzinski is on 1,040 points. However, each of these jiu-jitsukas will not be vying against each other as they are in separate weights. De Sousa will be aiming for gold in the 62kg, while Ramalho will compete in the 77kg. Wardzinski will aim for glory in the 94kg category and Evangelista in the 110kg category.

In the female category, the one to watch out for will be 18-year-old latest sensation Brazilian Gabrieli Pessanha, who will be aiming to top world rankings and also bag gold in her 90kg brown/black belt division in Abu Dhabi.

“I really can’t wait for this championship. I go to sleep thinking about it and I wake up thinking about it.

“I have gone through a lot in jiu-jitsu and it has all made me not only a better athlete, but also a better person, that is the beauty of our sport,” said Pessanha, who comes to Abu Dhabi having clinched gold in all the five UAEJJF Grand Slams in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Abu Dhabi and London.